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Louisville Orchestra Music Director Teddy Abrams Pays Tribute to Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali with Recording of New Rock-Infused Work for Piano and Electric Guitar

Float Rumble Rest Available Friday, June 10 on sonaBLAST! Records

Louisville Ali Album Art

FRIDAY, JUNE 10, LOUISVILLE, KY— Composer/conductor Teddy Abrams, the 29-year-old music director of the Louisville Orchestra, pays tribute to boxing legend Muhammad Ali with a recording of his genre-straddling new work, Float Rumble Rest. The new recording features Abrams at the keyboard with contributions from guitarist Jim James of the Louisville-based rock band My Morning Jacket. All sales from the new recording, available today at iTunes and elsewhere on sonaBLAST! Records, will benefit Louisville’s Muhammad Ali Center, which is scheduled to collaborate with the Louisville Orchestra next season during the orchestra’s second annual Festival of American Music. As the orchestra announced in April, Abrams is writing an orchestral work for the festival inspired by the life of Muhammad Ali, who was born on January 17, 1942 in Louisville and whose death on June 3 sparked a worldwide outpouring of public appreciation for a man celebrated and beloved as much for his work as an activist, moral beacon, and humanitarian as for his incomparable achievements in the ring.

Gill Holland, the founder of Louisville-based sonaBLAST! Records, explains how the recording came about:

“At the Haymarket Whisky Bar Saturday night for the record release party for our artist THE PASS, Jaxon Swain [Vice President of sonaBLAST! and also bass player for Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Famer Wanda Jackson] and I ran into Louisville Orchestra maestro Teddy Abrams who was rocking out, and said, ‘Hey these guys are good!’ I had talked to Teddy about recording something with sonaBLAST! before, and I said, ‘Hey, I saw you played that tribute to Ali downtown. Can you write a song tomorrow? We have a new distributor who can have it out worldwide on iTunes and elsewhere in about 72 hours!”

Holland is referring to a performance of “Amazing Grace” that Abrams led on Sunday at a makeshift memorial outside the Ali Center. Click here to see a video of the event, posted by Louisville’s Courier-Journal, in which Abrams speaks about the power of music to unify people at times that challenge and overwhelm them.

Holland continues:

“Then I looked over and saw that producer extraordinaire Kevin Ratterman [of My Morning Jacket, etc.] had just walked into the show, so I said, ‘What are you doing on Monday morning? Teddy is writing a song / homage to Ali and we’re gonna give all the iTunes sales to the Ali Center.’ Kevin responded right away with, ‘I’m in!’ And yes, Monday morning I could do, so Teddy said he would get on it ASAP. Teddy also then mentioned the Louisville Orchestra’s partnership with the Ali Center, so we were like, ‘Great, we can be part of that – whatever is helpful.’ And then on Monday I get this email from Kevin saying, ‘Hey bud. This is coming out great. We recorded this morning and I’m editing now and building an Eno-esque outro to tag onto the end, which I’m getting Jim to lay some guitar down on.’ – Jim is, of course, our friend Jim James – amazing that he just happened to be in town!

“So now we have a record that, when we heard it, my jaw dropped and my first thought was: this is a Grammy single, a modern classical tune with a rock ’n’ roll spark, a great mix of traditional and iconoclastic, a great and appropriate tribute to an indefinable and great, complicated, inspirational man whose legacy we want to help promote by making this a group effort fundraiser for the Ali Center.”

For the cover art, Holland turned to another Louisville-based artist, Letitia Quesenberry. Holland explains:

“We had asked Letitia to do an Ali portrait for our Louisville Counts kids’ books [also a fundraiser, but for the Speed Museum’s ‘Art Sparks’], and requested permission to re-use the image for Teddy’s single. She agreed, and so now we have the PASS LP and a Teddy–Ali homage both coming out on Friday. There is just something about Louisville that brings people together for good causes.

Teddy Abrams comments:

“Right now, the world is remembering and celebrating the extraordinary life of Louisville’s native son Muhammad Ali. The eyes of the global community are on Louisville as this city leads both our communal grieving and joyous reminiscing. As a Louisvillian and a musician, I wanted to offer an artistic tribute to the legendary figure who has inspired, influenced, and captivated humanity in the modern era. The tribute work is inspired by Ali’s famous ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ quote, along with his many aphorisms about perseverance, dedication, and the will to be ‘the greatest.’ Learning from Ali’s story and message, I’ve found both personal inspiration and a call for the world to be a far more peaceful, empathetic, and tolerant place. I hope that, in a small way, this piece of music can help keep his beautiful story alive and his legend may help guide the species in future generations. The final sequence of the piece is a meditation and a duet between the Hammond organ and my friend and fellow Louisvillian Jim James on a mournful but transcendent guitar line. Thank you to Jim and also the great producer Kevin Ratterman for bringing this work to life.”

Float Rumble Rest is the most recent composition by Abrams, who has written some 15 works for the Louisville Orchestra since launching his tenure there two seasons ago.

Click here to download a high-resolution copy of the cover image for Float Rumble Rest.


Float Rumble Rest
Teddy Abrams feat. Jim James
sonaBLAST! Records
Release date: Friday, June 10
Available now on iTunes, Google Play, and other services
All proceeds to benefit the Muhammad Ali Center, Louisville.

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© 21C Media Group, June 2016

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